Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 141–152 | Cite as

Adolescent Sexual Debut and Later Delinquency

  • Stacy Armour
  • Dana L. HaynieEmail author
Original Paper


Does sexual debut (i.e., experiencing sexual intercourse for the first time) increase the risks of participating in later delinquent behavior? Does this risk increase if adolescents experience early sexual debut relative to the timing experienced by one’s peers? Although many factors have been linked to sexual debut, little research has examined whether sexual initiation is linked to later behavioral outcomes. Using data on adolescents participating in three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=7,297), we examine the interconnections between sexual debut and later delinquency. In addition, we pay particular attention to the role of timing of sexual debut. We find that experiencing sexual debut is associated with delinquency one year later. In addition, those adolescents who experience early sexual debut relative to their peers are at higher risk of experiencing delinquency compared to those who debut on-time; adolescents who experience late sexual debut are the least likely to participate in delinquency. Moreover, the protective effect of late sexual debut appears to persist for several years. Findings are interpreted by drawing on developmental theory and life course research.


Problem Behavior Sexual Intercourse Delinquent Behavior Sexual Debut Pubertal Timing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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